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2014 NHRA: The Al-Anabi Racing Team - Gainesville, Fla. NHRA Preview
Posted by: newsla on Mar 11, 2014 - 04:27 PM
NHRA
2014 NHRA: The Al-Anabi Racing Team - Gainesville, Fla. NHRA Preview


Khalid alBalooshi, Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel Dragster (gold):

Residence: Los Angeles, Calif.
Hometown: Dubai, UAE
Date of Birth: July 27, 1979
Crew Chief: Jason McCulloch
Al-Anabi Racing Team Owner: His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani
Al-Anabi Racing Team Manager: Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson Racing Owner: Alan Johnson
2014 wins/final rounds: 1/1 (1.000)
Career wins/final rounds: 3/5 (.600)
2014 No. 1 Qualifiers: 0
Career No. 1 qualifiers: 0
Career-best points finish: 8th (2013)
Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs appearances: 1 (2013)
First professional start: Pomona1, 2012
Career-best elapsed time: 3.735 seconds (Reading 2012)
Career-best speed: 328.46 mph (Reading, 2012)

 

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■ Dubai native Khalid alBalooshi, the first Middle Eastern driver to compete in a major United States Motorsports series, enters the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in second place in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings. He trails points leader Doug Kalitta by 26 points and leads third-place Antron Brown by nine points.

■ AlBalooshi won the season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., last month. It was the third Top Fuel win of his career, and with that win, he became the first Top Fuel driver to qualify for the 2014 Traxxas Nitro Shootout. The third-year special event for eight Top Fuel teams and eight Funny Car teams is set for Indianapolis during the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend. AlBalooshi also qualified for the Traxxas Nitro Shootout last year but was eliminated in the first round.

■ AlBalooshi finished a career-best eighth in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings. He won a race and recorded two runner-up finishes along the way. Now a three-time Top Fuel winner, he is far more experienced in Top Fuel than he was when he began making the move from Pro Mod to Top Fuel two years ago. The Dubai native had 25 round wins last season. In his 2012 rookie season, alBalooshi won a total of 14 rounds of racing showing an improvement of nearly 79% last season.

■ The Al-Anabi Racing Team won at Gainesville in 2009 with driver Larry Dixon and in 2011 with driver Del Worsham. One year ago at this event, alBalooshi was the No. 12 qualifier; he defeated Tony Schumacher before losing to Clay Millican in the second round of eliminations.

■ AlBalooshi’s gold Al-Anabi dragster has a new look for 2014. New this year, the car has gold lettering on a black background making the car radically different from that of teammate Shawn Langdon. For those who had problems telling the difference between the Al-Anabi cars, it is a welcome change.

■ AlBalooshi won the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio last July. It was his first win of the season and the second of his Top Fuel career. He had one win in three final rounds and four semifinals last season. He won the NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa., in 2012 – his first-career Top Fuel victory.

■ AlBalooshi’s rookie year was a story of two very different half seasons. In the first half of the 2012 season, alBalooshi was defeated in the first round of eliminations at all 12 races. However, after getting his first Top Fuel round win at Denver in July, alBalooshi advanced to at least the second round of eliminations at10 of the last 11 races of the season including each of the last nine. He had a win and a semifinal in the last three races, and before he lost in the Las Vegas semifinals at the second-to-last race of the year, he had won six consecutive rounds of racing.

■ Because he finished eighth in the final 2013 NHRA MelloYello Top Fuel point standings, alBalooshi is able to display the No. 8 on the rear wing of the gold Al-Anabi Racing dragster. However, alBalooshi chose to keep the No. 99 on the car as a tribute to Al-Anabi Racing team owner His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani; nine is Sheikh Khalid’s favorite number.

■ AlBalooshi, the first Middle Eastern driver to compete in a major United States Motorsports series, joined the Al-Anabi Racing Team as a Pro Mod driver when it was formed in 2009 racing in both Arabian Drag Racing League and American Drag Racing League competition. He is the 2011 NHRA Pro Mod champion. Prior to joining the Top Fuel portion of the Al-Anabi Racing Team in 2012, he had 158 career race wins in various classes of competition; he now has 162 career wins.

AlBalooshi prior to Gaineville:
“I am very excited to go the third race of the season in Gainesville. It is a good track, and our team has already shown we have a good hot rod this year so I feel good about the race this week. I am looking forward to seeing everyone and getting back in the car.

“I know exactly what happened with us in the second race (In Phoenix last month), and I think everything will be OK for our team this week. I’ve been talking with my crew chief (Jason McCulloch), and I know what happened in our second round with (Doug) Kalitta. I think we will be good for the next race. Our Al-Anabi team is going in the right direction this year.

“Last year, and the year before that, I did not have so much seat time. Now I have more experience, and I am very excited to drive this car. I am doing OK, but I still can get better and better and better. When I get more seat time, I get more comfortable in the car. When I get more comfortable in the car, I can do a better job for our team. But what I can tell you right now is that our team is doing a very good job, and I am excited to get to the race track and do my job in Florida this week.”

Shawn Langdon, Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel Dragster (silver):

Residence: Avon, Ind.
Hometown: Mira Loma, Calif.
Date of birth: Sept. 3, 1982
Crew chief: Brian Husen
Al-Anabi Racing Team Owner: His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani
Al-Anabi Racing Team Manager: Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson Racing Owner: Alan Johnson
2013 wins/final rounds: 7/11 (.636)
Career wins/final rounds: 8/18 (.444)
2013 No. 1 qualifiers: 7
Career No. 1 qualifiers: 13
Best points finish: 1st (2013)
Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs appearances: 5 (2009, ’10, ’11, ’12, ‘13)
First start: Pomona 1, 2009
Career-best elapsed time: 3.712 seconds (Reading, 2012)
Career-best speed: 334.15 mph (Reading, 2012)

■ 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon enters the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in seventh place in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings. He trails the two drivers tied for fifth place, Brittany Force and Spencer Massey, by three points and leads eighth-place Tony Schumacher by 32 points. He is just 67 points behind points leader Doug Kalitta.

■ Langdon was the No. 4 qualifier at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals near Phoenix last month. He defeated Clay Millican in the first round before losing to race winner Antron Brown in the second round of eliminations.

■ Despite quarterfinal losses in the season’s first two races, Langdon’s silver Al-Anabi car has been running well in 2014. He qualified second at the season-opening race in Pomona, Calif. but lost a very close drag race to his teammate, Khalid alBalooshi (3.73 to 3.76 seconds with a .007 margin of victory), and alBalooshi went on to win the race. In Phoenix, he was the No. 4 qualifier but lost to race winner Antron Brown when the engine on the Al-Anabi dragster dropped a cylinder. The silver Al-Anabi dragster continues to compete at a very high level despite some unfortunate racing luck.

■ The Al-Anabi Racing Team won at Gainesville in 2009 with driver Larry Dixon and in 2011 with driver Del Worsham. One year ago at this event, alBalooshi was the No. 3 qualifier; he defeated Sidnei Frigo before losing to Spencer Massey in the second round of eliminations.

■ Langdon is the reigning NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Champion for the first time in his career. Last year’s title was the third in the last four seasons for the Al-Anabi Racing Team. In addition, it was Langdon’s fourth NHRA National Championship. He won the 1997 NHRA Junior Dragster National Championship in the under 14 division and the NHRA Lucas Oil Super Comp championship in 2007 and ’08. He is the first alumnus of the NHRA Junior Dragster program to win a Mello Yello Championship.

■ When Langdon won the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Championship last year, he became the fifth driver to win a Top Fuel title with Alan Johnson serving as the crew chief, team owner or team manager. The other Top Fuel champions that worked with Johnson during their championship seasons are: Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon and Del Worsham.

■ When Langdon won the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Championship last year, it was the 11th Top Fuel title for legendary tuner and Al-Anabi Racing team manager Alan Johnson. He won his previous 10 Top Fuel championships serving as crew chief, team owner and team manager. Including his NHRA National Championships in alcohol dragster, Johnson now has 15 NHRA National Championships.

■ Langdon had seven wins in 11 final-round appearances last season, and he advanced to at least the semifinals at 16 of the season’s last 20 races. He has eight-career Top Fuel wins.

■ Langdon’s average qualifying position in 2014 is third. He was an excellent qualifier last year; his average qualifying position was 3.75. He had seven No. 1 qualifiers qualified in the top-five positions at 19 of the 24 events last year. Langdon has 13 career No. 1 qualifiers.

■ Langdon recorded the fastest speed to 1,000 feet in NHRA history in October of 2012 in Reading, Pa. when he reached 334.15 mph. In addition, during the same Reading race weekend, his 3.712-second elapsed time was the national elapsed-time record until Antron Brown made a quicker pass in the same weekend and set the record. Langdon’s run still stands as the second-quickest 1,000-foot run in NHRA history; in fact, Langdon holds the second, third and eighth-quickest elapsed times in NHRA history.

■ Langdon won the second annual Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Indianapolis last year; he qualified for the special event when he won the 2013 Circle K Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. Langdon defeated Brittany Force, Antron Brown and Steve Torrence on his way to winning the second-year special event and its $100,000 prize. He went on to win the U.S. Nationals the next day.

■ The Al-Anabi Racing Team has won 40 races in its first five seasons (2009 -’13) for an average of eight wins a season or a third of the races. The team won a total of eight races in 2013 with Langdon taking seven wins and Khalid alBalooshi winning once. In 2012, Langdon and alBalooshi each reached the winner’s circle once – the two-win total was the lowest since the Al-Anabi Racing team began racing in 2009. That season, the team won eight times with five in Top Fuel and three in Funny Car; in 2010, Al-Anabi Racing visited the Top Fuel winner’s circle 12 times followed by 10 wins in 2011 when the team fielded two Top Fuel dragsters for the first time. Including the 2014 season, the Al-Anabi Racing Team has now won 41 races.

■ Langdon qualified for the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs in each of his five previous seasons driving a Top Fuel car. He won the 2013 NHJRA Mello Yello Top Fuel World Championship last year, finished fourth in 2012 after finishing ninth in 2011, fifth in 2010, and ninth in 2009, his rookie season.

■ Langdon joined the Al-Anabi Racing team prior to the 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. He won the 2007 and ’08 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Super Comp championships and the 1997 NHRA Junior Dragster championship in the 14-under division making him a three-time NHRA national series champion.

Langdon prior to Gainesville:
“I still feel great about the Al-Anabi team and the possibility of winning this weekend in Gainesville. The Al-Anabi car has been strong this year, and it has run well. We just lost a great drag race in Pomona and had an issue when the engine dropped a cylinder in Phoenix. We’re not far off base. We can still make good runs, and we still have a car worthy of winning races. It’s not anything we’re down and out about. We’re seventh in points and 67 points out of the lead, but we still feel very confident that the Al-Anabi team is only a race or two away from getting back to the top of the point standings.

“I don’t feel any pressure; it’s still the beginning of the season. It’s a long season, and we still have 22 races to go. We all know that Alan (team manager Alan Johnson) and Brian (crew chief Brian Husen) will have things figured out; there’s still a lot of racing left. There’s nothing to worry about and no need to panic. We are confident in our team and our tune-up. Everyone on the Al-Anabi team knows we have a car capable of winning any race. We just need everything to fall in place with a little race day luck on our side, and we’ll be fine.

“It’s been pretty neat to start the season as the Mello Yello Top Fuel Champion. I am really proud of the Al-Anabi team for what we accomplished together last year. Coming out this year after getting the recognition for winning the championship and standing up on the stage at Pomona (last month) with John Force, Jeg Coughlin and Matt Smith when we all got our championship rings and jackets was a really neat feeling. So many emotions came together at one point. Having the fans come by and ask what it feels like to be a World Champion is tough because I don’t really think it’s sunk in all the way yet. I still kind of think of myself as that little kid that’s a big fan of the sport. I really just enjoy being out there and being a part of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing. It’s kind of sinking in, but I guess it’s still a little weird for me to think of myself as a World Champion.

“The Gatornationals is always a big event because it’s our first event on the East coast. It’s always an event we enjoy. Depending on the conditions, you can make some really good laps. We feel confident going into Gainesville with the setup we have; in the last couple of years, we haven’t had too much success there, but we still feel very confident heading into this weekend.”

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